Whether I'm making a meal for my husband, Michael, and our two little kids, hosting a dinner party for our friends or creating recipes to share in my cookbooks or on my blogs, cooking is my expression of love and creativity. We all lead such busy lives these days--I actively look for ways to make mealtime something that's not only attainable, both in my house and in yours, but also highly enjoyable. Bringing a delicious dish out of the oven to set on the table and feed the ones you love--it doesn't get much better than that!
I called it a "culinary light bulb moment" when I realized how often I turned to my 8x8-inch square baking dish to prepare meals for my family. Not too big, not too small--it was just the right size for 4 to 6 servings (for us, that's dinner plus lunch the next day). Also, I'll be honest, I like how food looks cooked in a little square! When I can serve food that not only tastes great but also looks pretty on the table, I call that a win. And that's how my idea for The 8x8 Cookbook first came about.
The tagline for the book is "Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners, Desserts and More--In One Perfect 8x8 Inch Dish." It's kind of a mouthful (pun intended!), but it sums it up pretty well. A lot of us think of the 8x8-inch dish as our "brownie pan"--and I definitely have an amazing brownie recipe in the book--but I also wanted to show cooks of all skill levels just how much more you can do with this versatile vessel.
About half of the 64 recipes in The 8x8 Cookbook are dedicated to weeknight dinners. I've heard it from so many friends--and it's true for me as well--getting a decent weeknight dinner on the table (that everyone will eat!) is a universal challenge. Baking dinner in the oven might not be an obvious time-saving choice, but as those of us with busy schedules know, it's all about time management. With baking, you have hands-off time! It doesn't take long for me to assemble ingredients in a dish and set it in the oven--while it's baking I'm freed up to do whatever needs doing around the house (or just kick back on the couch and catch up on Facebook).
Holiday side dishes? The 8x8 dish is all over those. My sides in The 8x8 Cookbook are great for any time of year, but given that the book will be released near the holidays you can be sure I've got you covered. (By the way, in case you're looking for pretty vintage Pyrex or colorful ceramic bakers like I've got in these photos, I've listed all of my favorite dishes on The 8x8 Cookbook website.)
One more cool thing about the 8x8-inch size--recipes easily double to fit a 13x9-inch dish if you have a larger crowd. Versatile and adaptable!
In addition to the recipes and full-color photography (like with The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, I did all of the photography here as well), I've included a slew of helpful cooking tips throughout the book. I hope that families and groups of friends will find "go-to favorites" in this book and enjoy it for many years to come.
Recipe testing is a key part of my cookbook writing process. I was fortunate to have a stellar group of diligent recipe testers for The 8x8 Cookbook--35 family members, longtime friends, brand-new friends, friends of friends, blog readers who vowed to follow my recipes exactly as written (fighting off all urges to tweak!) and provide their honest feedback. Each and every time a feedback survey came in, I learned something incredibly valuable to make the recipe clearer, more accurate, more delicious or just plain more grammatically correct.
The goal for this Kickstarter campaign is $20,000, which will go a long way toward recouping the investment I've already made in recipe development, editing and design as well as printing and shipping costs. It's a "kickstart", but it won't cover everything. Funds generated beyond my goal will go toward recouping additional Kickstarter-related expenses (e.g., videography, publicity, processing fees) as well as "kickstart" future releases from Burnt Cheese Press.
In exchange for your support at all levels, I've put together a set of Reward packages I hope will offer something awesome for everyone. Of course, the main Reward item is The 8x8 Cookbook itself! Get one for yourself and a few to share with the cooks in your life (autographed books make really special holiday gifts, just sayin'!)
In addition to the book, I have another Reward item I'm especially proud of...
...an adorable "How to Make Mac 'n Cheese" graphic tee for kids, designed by an actual 7-year old (my daughter!). She thoughtfully drew the steps for making macaroni and cheese, from her perspective. She is very excited to be a part of my launch! My nephew has already put his order in. :-)
Adults, I've got a great tee for us too:
I think the black-and-white baseball raglan style matches perfectly with the Burnt Cheese Press logo.
NOTE: If you'd like more books or tees than your chosen Reward package offers, you will have the opportunity to add individual a la carte items to your pledge after the campaign ends.
I learned to cook the way a lot of us do--watching my mom in the kitchen. From the time I was old enough to help her, I have enjoyed creating dishes and experimenting with ingredients. When I started food blogging, nearly 8 years ago, I began studying food much more closely and my love for cooking and sharing grew exponentially.
I started Panini Happy at the beginning of 2008, Cooking On the Side a year later in 2009 and Sunny Days, Good Food earlier this year. Each blog represents a progression in my journey in exploring food. Through blogging, I have had the opportunity to meet fascinating people in the food world, have truly unique experiences (judging a SPAM cooking competition last summer jumps to mind!) and write my first cookbook, The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook (Harvard Common Press 2013).
Food writing has come as a second career for me. If it wasn't already obvious (my Type A shows when I put together a matrix!), I have a business background. I have MBA and undergrad degrees from Stanford and I spent my former life in the corporate world, as a marketer for brands such as Warner Bros., Gateway and TurboTax. I brought my background in creating websites and communicating through words and graphics with me to blogging, and now it serves me well as a publisher.
As you read through The 8x8 Cookbook you'll find many mentions of my family. They are my world! My husband, Michael, and I have two very energetic, fun-loving kids, ages 5 and 7. It's all about soccer games, Minecraft, Rainbow Fairies and sight words at our house these days--and I wouldn't change it for anything. We recently moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from where I grew up.
Typically, in traditional publishing, it takes about a year from the time a manuscript is turned in until it's produced and released. This time around, my production timeline is condensed to just a few months. It's a challenge! But there are a few key reasons I'm able to make this happen:
- Printing in the U.S. -- Many publishers print overseas to reduce costs, but it also significantly increases delivery time. The 8x8 Cookbook will be printed right here in the USA by Bang Printing.
- Less reliance on traditional media -- I'm operating on the belief that social media--Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest--can spread the word about The 8x8 Cookbook in real-time just as effectively as magazines and other print media, which usually require 4 to 6 months' lead time. Obviously, I sincerely hope that magazines will cover my book at some point! But for my initial launch, I am relying on word-of-mouth promotion (which means you!).
- Talented people -- At the end of the day, the work won't get done without the efforts of hardworking, talented people such as the ones I've got working with me. I am blessed to have found them and am immensely proud of what they've already accomplished.
I have the most amazing "dream team" of talented individuals who have made The 8x8 Cookbook happen. I cannot thank them enough, but I will try!
Design: Lorna Nakell, Interrobang Collective
Editing and Layout: Poppy Milliken, Interrobang Collective
Publicity: Jodie Chase, Chase, Ink. Public Relations
Videography: Joe Stoltz, Stoltz Media
Chief Reality Checker: Angela Lipscomb
Husband Extraordinaire: Michael Strahs
Recipe Testing: Sarah and Ben Aslan, Julie Atkinson, Larissa Baker, Tamara Berg, Melissa Black, Kelly Castellon, Jen Czaja, Lauren Hall, Jenni Harris, Libby Hellmann, Lauren Holiday, Sandra Hoyle, Audrey Jastrow, Tricia Kenny, Michelle Kusanovich, Angela Lipscomb, Nancy Lipscomb, Eleni Mavromati, Kerily McEvoy, Kirsten Medeiros, Alissa Meltzer, Jen Miller, Lisa Muroya, Sarah Orellana, Holly Osment, Amanda Richard, Brooke Russell, Kim Samek, Heather Sblendorio, Sara Scott, Lynne Steele, Colleen Strahs, Susan Strahs, Brenda Thompson, Laura Thompson, Jim Twiss, Lana Walsh, Kelly Williams, Kitty Wilson, Whit Wilson
Creating something from nothing...that was the giant task in front of me once I decided to take the leap to start Burnt Cheese Press and publish The 8x8 Cookbook. I had the concept--from there I needed to put the people and systems in place to make it happen. I read a ton, I pinged friend after friend for advice. I had to become comfortable with the idea that I may not get it all right (which is not easy for a perfectionist Virgo!). I took the leap. When I wake up every morning, excited to move forward on this project, that lets me know I made the right decision.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for your support!
Risks and challenges
The book is currently in the final phase of development, which is interior design and proofreading. As my team and I make every effort to hit our production deadlines, there are elements of the process that are beyond our control, such as printing and shipping time. I have every intention to ship the books and other items to backers by early-to-mid December, but that goal could be adversely impacted by unforeseen printing or shipping delays.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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